Children’s cases need special treatment – so if you are involved in a case concerning children, yes, the court will need to know about any criminal records you may have, or previous involvement with the police. However, whether the judge believes it to be relevant to the case will depend on what the convictions were for, and how long ago.
Remember, also, that information about criminal records is just one piece of evidence the courts consider in a children’s case. The main issue that the judge will be interested in is whether your convictions, or anything else could cause a risk to the child(ren) concerned.
The steps the court has to take
When a Children Act application is made to the court, safeguarding checks are carried out on the children and all the parties involved. A safeguarding letter will also be sent to the court which gives details of any criminal convictions or cautions that relate to any of the parties.
If necessary, there could be a direction made by the court that further disclosure is made by the police. This means that if there’s anything in the information given that needs more information, the police are asked to give details to the court. Again, this only happens if it’s relevant and won’t always be needed.
Convictions and children’s cases
Just because you have convictions, it won’t necessarily affect your case. A family court will look at ALL of the facts and evidence in order to make a decision, and so has to have all of the evidence available to do so. Some evidence is naturally going to be more important and carry more weight, this applies to criminal convictions; the significance will vary depending on how relevant they are.
Welfare of the children in children’s cases
The welfare of the children will always be the court’s paramount consideration, and there is a welfare checklist it goes through when looking at the evidence and making its decisions.
The checklist includes issues such as:
- The wishes and feelings of the children, in the light of their age and understanding.
- Their physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely effect on of any changes in circumstances.
- The age, sex, background and any characteristics of the children which the court considers relevant.
- Any harm which they have suffered or may be at risk of suffering.
- How capable each of the parents and/or any other person in relation to the children the court considers the questions to be relevant to is of meeting their needs.
- The range of orders available to the court under the Children Act
The existence of criminal convictions can often be quite relevant, but for many people it will just be a small piece of information and not be the most crucial piece of information.
Top tips for children’s cases if you have convictions
- Be honest and upfront with those dealing with your case, the solicitors, mediators, Cafcass officers and the court. It’s always better for them to know about any issues in advance.
- Be prepared to disclose the details of any convictions; when they occurred, what sentence or punishment was received and information about the nature of the conviction (e.g. what happened to lead to that conviction and any steps taken since to change or avoid further charges.)
- Remember that convictions are only one piece of the evidence that will be considered in the case.
- Establish what the issues in the case really are.
- Highlight what involvement you have already had with the child or children.
- Was the other party aware of the convictions? If so from when?
For any advice, contact us in confidence for more information on how we can help.
Questions and issues to raise with your mediator or solicitor
- How relevant is this conviction to the issues that need to be resolved?
- What are the issues or concerns for the child, and how can these be addressed in order to meet the child’s needs?
- What other information might you need to supply about your conviction?
- How long will it take to get the information, and is contact allowed in the interim? Will there be any progress in the case while you’re waiting for the information and documentation?